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New AMA president predicts Canada could get national pharmacare program

WATCH ABOVE: The new president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Granger Avery, was in Calgary Saturday, where he said Canada’s current health care system is simply not sustainable. He also has some big ideas on how to fix it. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) installed Dr. Padraic Carr as its new president for 2016 during its annual general meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary Saturday.

Carr is a psychiatrist in Edmonton and he received his medical degree in 1990 from the University of Alberta. Dr. Carr will have a number of issues on his plate, including prescription drug abuse.

“It’s not only an issue provincially, it’s an issue nationally. Opioid abuse and substance abuse programs are something we’re going to have to look at. There are many variables including mental illness and physical illness that we have to address. It is a huge issue,” Dr. Carr said, after he suggested increasing resources for more substance abuse programs and more education for family doctors and care teams.

The new president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Granger Avery, was also at Saturday’s meeting.  Dr. Avery became the CMA president in August at the CMA’s annual general meeting, held this year in Vancouver.

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Dr. Avery is pushing for health care reform in Canada.

“Our system isn’t doing very well overall if you look at the international comparisons, so we need to think about how we move the entire system,” Dr. Avery said.

“We need to have a different way of approaching it to make it sustainable.  Canada is quite divided. I sometimes called Canada the land of 100,000 health care silos. People within those silos work really well and really hard and produce a really good product but it’s not connected. Why haven’t we got a national electronic health record for example? Why don’t we have a national pharmacare program for example?” Dr. Avery said.

He said standardized care is needed for all seniors, regardless of which province they live in. Dr. Avery’s also advocating for universal public drug coverage.

A recent report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said there could be cost savings with a bulk purchasing system, instead of every province and territory buying drugs for their plans separately. It states that every developed country with a universal health care system also has universal coverage of prescription drugs, except Canada.

“Drugs in Canada are quite a high cost, higher than many other countries,” Dr. Avery said.

“As a concept, it makes perfect sense.”

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Dr. Padraic Carr says a national drug program could become a reality in Canada but it won’t happen overnight.

“Maybe there’s some problems with costs of administering the program. Perhaps some different provinces may not want to buy in, so I think it’s going to take a lot of negotiating to begin with,” Dr. Carr said.

“Eventually I think there’s enough appetite with the public. Working with the CMA, provincial governments and federal government, I think it’s a possibility but it’s going to take some time.”